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Training Log Archive: Tom O

In the 7 days ending Aug 10:

activity # timemileskm+m
  Backpacking2 16:00:00 25.3(37:57) 40.72(23:35) 1380
  Hiking2 4:05:01 11.78(20:48) 18.96(12:55) 297
  Total4 20:05:01 37.08(32:30) 59.67(20:12) 1677

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Saturday Aug 10 #

Backpacking 8:00:00 [2] 12.6 mi (38:06 / mi) +610m 33:07 / mi
shoes: Asolo 520 Boots (3)

David Logan Shelter to Sucker Brook Shelter

Distance: 12.6 miles Cumulative Distance: 25.3 miles
Climb: 2400 ft Cumulative Climb: 4900 ft
Weather: Mix of sun and brief showers
Trail conditions: Delightful to Brandon Gap, then rougher but enjoyable
Breakfast: Oatmeal with peaches, pecans
Lunch: Cole Slaw
Dinner: Baja Burrito with Taco Sauce, Whole Wheat Tortillas

It rained off and on last night but was merely cloudy when I emerged from the tent to retrieve my bear bag. The Green Mountain National Forest had just instituted a policy a couple weeks prio to require either bear canisters or hanging food due to increased bear activity. I always hang my food anyway so this posed no hardship for me. For breakfast, I tried newly discovered dehydrated peaches in my oatmeal – absolutely delicious! I pulled out of the shelter by 8:00 am and made my way over to Wetmore Gap. After a brief steep climb, I passed Trek and then the trail began to level out making for very pleasant conditions. This was about the only easy trail of the week with the exception of the Winooski River floodplain section at the end. I had taken an ibuprofen to keep my hip quiet and cautiously picked up my pace. Just before Bloodroot Gap, I reeled in Phlebbie. He heard me coming from behind, looked back and then immediately sped up, arms and hiking poles flailing wildly. I got the impression he did not want to suffer the indignity of being passed. I stopped at the gap for a power bar break. A snowmobile trail crosses here and there is a thermometer attached to a tree. It read 52 degrees – a very nice hiking temperature.

The good trail continued down to Sunrise Shelter where I stopped for lunch with Akheem and Phlebbie. I was dreading the upcoming climb out of Brandon Gap over the cliffs of Mt. Horrid. With a name like that, it can’t be fun. Except that it was. The steep ascent was well-maintained with rock steps in all the right places. Before I knew it, I was at the top of Mt. Horrid. It was like a switch had been flipped. The hardwoods had been replaced with evergreens and the forest floor was carpeted in a thick emerald moss. Continuing on, I finally passed Phlebbie as he had stopped to take a break on the ascent up Cape Lookoff Mt. The long green tunnel finally parted to provide a beautiful view to the west. A YMCA youth group from Western Massachusetts was there, taking a break on the way to Sucker Brook Shelter. I snapped a quick photo and rejoined the trail, crossing Gillespie Peak and Romance Mountain before descending to the shelter spur trail. The weather had been alternating sunshine and sprinkles all day but now I heard thunder in the distance and the skies were darkening.

I picked a tent site along a small stream and quickly set up camp. Several thru-hikers from Montpelier soon arrived – John and a father/daughter duo named Squirrel and Newt. The hammock hangers and the youth group pulled in but there was no sign of Trek or Phlebbie. It turned out that rapscallion Phlebbie had thwarted me and regained the lead by continuing past the shelter to find a place to hammock. I would not see him again. I was a little worried about Trek – he had a partially torn meniscus in one knee, a bad hip from a fall near Manchester, and had passed a kidney stone a few days ago. But he was experienced enough to fend for himself. A couple dogs appeared at the shelter from a side trail followed by their owner – a GMC friend of John’s who had brought some trail magic in the form of fresh cherries and homemade ginger cookies.

I enjoyed a tasty burrito dinner as a heavy thunderstorm rolled through and then took my daily dose of Vitamin I. So far the ibuprofen strategy was working. I would take one pill each evening at dinner. By the end of the day, the hip would be barking a little. Strong hips are very important for hiking because they power your stride. I was favoring my left leg as I hiked and trying not to put any undue stress on my right hip. As a result, my pace was probably 15-20% slower than normal. I didn’t like the idea of medicating my way through the hike but at this point, it was a necessity if I wanted to continue. On the plus side, my left knee was actually feeling better. Hiking sometimes has a way of curing these nagging injuries. The youth group was making some noise as I settled in to the tent so I inserted my ear plugs and enjoyed a sound sleep.

Friday Aug 9 #

Note

Long Trail section hike

Backpacking 8:00:00 [2] 12.7 mi (37:48 / mi) +770m 31:48 / mi
shoes: Asolo 520 Boots (3)

Sherburne Pass (US Rte 4) to David Logan Shelter

Distance: 12.7 miles Cumulative Distance: 12.7 miles
Climb: 2500 ft Cumulative Climb: 2500 ft
Weather: Nice during the day, evening rain
Trail conditions: Moderate to Rolston Rest Shelter then rough
Breakfast: Tomato Omelette w/ toast, home fries Lunch: Hummus w/ crackers
Dinner: Mushroom Stroganoff over Noodles

Breakfast comes with the room at Inn at Long Trail and provided good fuel to kick off the hike. I was checked out by 8:30 and after some brief chit-chat with a couple local day hikers, headed down the trail. Since I was here in 1999, the Long Trail and AT have been re-routed about a half mile west of the Inn. The old trail that passes right by the Inn still exists so I took it to the old Maine Junction then proceeded south on the new AT to the new Maine Junction where I joined the Long Trail northbound. A few miles in, I stopped at the new Tucker Johnson Shelter to check it out and then proceeded along pleasant if nondescript trail for the rest of the morning. While taking a break, a couple I had seen at the Inn passed me. Cheryl and Anthony were Long Trail thru-hikers from New Hampshire. We met again at the Rolston Rest Shelter where I stopped for lunch.

After lunch, the trail conditions worsened with relatively gradual climbs that slabbed the steep hillsides. With the canted path, it felt like you were constantly fighting gravity as you made your way forward. The Long Trail is known for becoming progressively tougher as it makes its way north. I knew this was nothing compared to what lay ahead. I stopped at a stream to filter water where a couple other hikers were hanging in their hammocks taking a mid-afternoon siesta. Then it was on to Telephone Gap and one final climb up Mt. Carmel before reaching the side trail to David Logan Shelter.

When I pulled into the shelter, there were already a few hikers there including Trek, an old time Triple Crowner from Oregon who had completed the AT four times (first in 1973) and was now on his second Long Trail thru hike. The first had been southbound and he was now headed north. He commented that the trail seemed tougher going from south to north. This shelter has a fence across the front presumably to keep the porcupines at bay. One of the hikers reported that he had spotted a large porcupine up the hill as he descended to the shelter. I made dinner as hikers continued to stream in – eleven in all. One of the last to arrive was a middle-aged hiker from Cambridge, MA who had enormous calves, one of which was wrapped with a medical compression sleeve. The other leg appeared riddled with varicose veins. He looked to be a prime candidate for phlebitis. I never learned his name but secretly dubbed him “Phlebbie.” After diner, I had an interesting discussion on climate change with Akheem, an environmental science major from Allegheny College. Fortunately, there was plenty of room for this assorted menagerie. Rain began to fall as I retired to my tent.

Thursday Aug 8 #

Note

The Long, Hard Trail


“You cannot count the miles until you feel them.”
Townes Van Zandt

I had planned this hike several years ago but was unable to do it due to conflicts. Having already completed the southernmost 100 miles of the Long Trail as part of the AT, it seemed to make sense to break the remaining 172 miles into two roughly equivalent length sections. I selected early August as the optimal time frame – post black fly season but before most of the school/youth groups hit the trail. I had a nagging left knee issue (likely patellar tendonitis) since April. It seemed to be getting a little better and wasn’t bothering me during practice hikes so wasn’t a major concern. More troubling was bursitis in my right hip that had appeared out of nowhere several weeks before the hike. It was painful even while walking but was not getting any worse during training and responded well to ibuprofen. I stopped running in June to give the knee time to heal so was not in the best cardiovascular shape but logged over 100 mikes of practice training hikes with my pack. I decided to launch the hike despite that fact that I was not 100% physically.

The Long Trail is the oldest long distance hiking trail in the United States, constructed by the Green Mountain Club between 1910 and 1930. 272 miles in length, it runs north along the spine of the Green Mountains from the Vermont – Massachusetts border to the Canadian border. En route, it crosses all of Vermont’s 4000 foot peaks: Mansfield, Killington, Ellen, Camel’s Hump, and Abraham. It served as the model for the Appalachian Trail and other long-distance hiking trails with shelters and lodges spaced at regular intervals. The two inch by six inch rectangular white blaze marking was used on the Long Trail well before it was adopted by the Appalachian Trail. The Long Trail has a well-deserved reputation for being particularly gnarly. In fact, it was selected as the most difficult long-distance hiking trail in the country by Outside Magazine. The 80 mile stretch that I was covering on this section was marked by 6 gaps:

Sherburne Pass (US Rte 4) – milepost 104 , elevation 2150 ft
Brandon Gap (VT 73) – milepost 124, elevation 2178 ft
Middlebury Gap (VT 125) – milepost 134, elevation 2144 ft
Lincoln Gap (Lincoln Gap Rd)- milepost 151, elevation 2428 ft
Appalachian Gap (VT 17) – milepost 162, elevation 2375 ft
Winooski River (US Rte 2) – milepost 184, elevation 340 ft

I had arranged a shuttle to transfer me from the Long Trail parking lot at Rte 2 where I was leaving my car south to the Inn at Long Trail at Sherburne Pass. Inn at Long Trail was one of my favorite stops on the AT and I was anxious to pay it a return visit. I went through my pack carefully the evening of August 7th to make sure everything was in place. I set the alarm for 3:30 am the next morning wanting to get an early start to avoid weekday commuter traffic around New York City. I actually awoke a little before the alarm, grabbed a quick breakfast and threw one last dehydrated meal from the freezer into my food bag. I was on the road by 4:15 am with a large mug of coffee to keep me company. I breezed through the NYC metropolitan area and was making good time on I-87. I pulled in to a service plaza to refuel and went to get my credit cards out of one of the compartments in my pack. They weren’t there! Panicking, I rifled through my pack looking for them to no avail. I was sure I had put them in my pack last night. I called Doug McKain, the shuttle provider, to let him know that I had really screwed up and apparently left my credit cards and most of my cash in Delaware. I had made reservations at the Inn at Long Trail and the Hyde Away Inn in Waitsfield on-line so they likely already had my credit card info. But I still needed cash for gas for the return trip and other incidentals. Doug graciously told me I could pay him later. We said goodbye ant then I made one more search of the pack for the missing items. To my surprise, I found my cash and credit cards in a zip lock baggie inside my food bag! I must have put them there when I added the last dehydrated meal to the food bag before I left. Your mind does strange things at 3:00 in the morning. I breathed a big sigh of relief and continued north to Vermont without incident.

Along the way, I stopped in the small town of Vergennes, VT for a tasty lunch at the 3 Squares Café. I called Doug to let him know I would arrive at the parking area around 1:00 pm. He informed me that he would also be shuttling another hiker who was bailing out of a hike early down to Lincoln Gap. When I pulled into the Long Trail parking lot at Rte. 2, I saw a young hiker stretched out in the grass. I asked him if he was waiting for Doug McKain. Yes, he said and introduced himself as Cole from Rhode Island. He had started north of Mt. Mansfield and was planning on going south to Lincoln Gap but the long descent from Mansfield really bothered his knees so he was aborting the hike. Underestimating the trail would be a recurrent theme among hikers I met throughout the next week. Doug pulled in, we loaded our gear into his van and headed south. After dropping off Cole, I arrived at Inn at Long Trail around 3:00 pm. It had not changed much in the intervening years since Fred Kruesi and I stopped here on an AT section hike in August, 1999. I checked into my room and then had a veggie burger dinner in the Irish pub along with a Guinness on-tap. There were lots of other hikers around. I assumed most were Appalachian Trail thru hikers. I was anxious to get on the trail but worried that my physical issues might lead me to crash and burn. The odds of a successful hike, I surmised, were about 50%.

Tuesday Aug 6 #

Note

Apparently I have a 3 ft black snake living somewhere in the back yard. Saw it stretched out on the patio at dusk as I was finishing up some yard work.
5 PM

Hiking 1:50:55 [3] 5.26 mi (21:05 / mi) +146m 19:25 / mi
ahr:103 max:151 shoes: Asolo 520 Boots (3)

A short hike around Redd Park and the reservoir. Did 2 climbs straight up the reservoir hill.

Sunday Aug 4 #

6 PM

Hiking 2:14:06 [3] 6.52 mi (20:34 / mi) +151m 19:11 / mi
ahr:108 max:150 shoes: Asolo 520 Boots (3)

Ducked out of a party at the neighbor's early to get a hike in before dark. Up through Redd Park then around the reservoir. Threw in an extra climb of the reservoir hill - that thing is tough!

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